The Copa America is big for many reasons _ the U.S. is serving as host, it’s the 100th anniversary of South America’s most prestigious tournament and the 16 countries participating will use it as a litmus test to see where they stand before resuming World Cup qualifying. For some players, this Copa will serve as a high-profile showcase that could lead to a big contract at the club level.
These picks cover the matches for June 6, using a 4-4-2 formation and salary cap of $90,000 as part of Fan XT’s Daily Fantasy rules for the Copa America tournament.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Or for these purposes, why Lionel Messi is not in this starting XI. It’s not due to a lack of quality, obviously. The Argentine helped Barcelona win the La Liga title has five Ballon D’or trophies to his credit, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The argument here is his price tag of $14,500 against two key factors: he only rejoined the team Friday night following his trial in Barcelona for tax fraud and he picked up a few knocks in Argentina’s friendly against Honduras.
To have Messi at anything less than 100 percent with that price tag is an awfully big risk _ it’s nearly one-sixth against the salary cap. But that risk can be reduced by the presence of three other world-class strikers going head-to-head in this match in Messi’s teammates Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain as well as Chilean counterpart Alexis Sanchez. With Aguero and Higuain each worth $10,750, it makes more sense to choose one (or both depending on your confidence Argentina winning this 2015 Copa America final rematch) and have the ability to spread your funds into an equally stacked midfield.
Though it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Messi scored a goal or three. Caveat emptor, my friends.
Goalkeeper: Jaime Penedo, Panama ($7,030). In three combined friendlies leading into their match, both Bolivia and Panama have failed to score any goals. And with the Argentina-Chile match all but certain to have a result other than 0-0, this is the match to find a goalkeeper with the potential to turn in a clean sheet. Penedo gets the nod, partly because he is the unquestioned No. 1 starter for Panama while Bolivia has started four different keepers in its last four matches, but also that Bolivia’s defense was torn apart by the U.S. 4-0 in its last match while Panama scrapped to a 2-0 defeat to Brazil in a match that was close for 80 minutes.
Defenders: Felipe Baloy, Panama ($7,060). Doubling down with Penedo, Baloy is the captain of Los Canaleros and the anchor of a stingy defense. Remember, Panama did finish third in last year’s Gold Cup and showed some resiliency in beating the U.S. in that consolation match after a heartbreaking loss to Mexico on penalties.
Adolfo Machado, Panama ($7,020). Teammates with Penedo at CD Saprissa in Costa Rica, Machado is another low-risk value pick that could provide bonus points if Panama turns in a clean sheet. The other purpose with using this defensive triangle is a salary cap cushion to be used on potentially one high-end defender or midfielder.
Ramiro Funes Mori, Argentina ($7,630). Funes Mori pushed his way into Everton’s starting lineup for the final two months of the season and proved to be an offensive threat who knows how to get forward. He is a dangerous threat on set pieces, three of his last six goals in club play have come on headers.
Edward Zenteno, Bolivia ($7,030). A low-risk selection to complete the back line, Bolivar’s talisman has been a mainstay of CD Wilstermann, one of the country’s best sides. Zenteno has 12 goals since joining Wilsterman in 2012, so he may prove a goal-scoring option on set pieces.
Midfielders: Eduardo Vargas, Chile ($7,340). Quick, who was Chile’s top scorer at last year’s Copa America and one of its joint-scoring leaders currently in World Cup qualifying? Not Alexis Sanchez, and not Arturo Vidal. Instead it’s Vargas, the quiet assassin who has 25 goals in 52 international appearances for La Rojo. While Vargas struggled to find the back of the net with 1899 Hoffenheim in Germany this season and may not even start this match, he is someone who can turn a match with one play.
Gary Medel, Chile ($7,750). Considered a midfielder in this fantasy contest, Medel is being selected partially for salary cap flexibility, but he also isn’t afraid to let fly with a shot if he finds the space. Medel, who has been a fixture in Inter Milan’s starting XI the last two seasons, is also capable of delivering a cross from out wide.
Erik Lamela, Argentina ($8,500). While Angel Di Maria will have the bulk of the touches with the ball when Argentina has possession, Lamela is the player whose runs pull apart defenses and create space for himself and others. He was a key reason Tottenham Hotspur was the last challenge to Leicester City in the Premier League, and his pressing style in the midfield could provide plenty of opportunities for La Albiceleste on the counterattack.
Arturo Vidal, Chile ($9,310). Vidal is more of an attacking midfielder for country than club since Bayern Munich has an embarrassment of riches in terms of scoring options. That bodes well here since Vidal will be able to press forward and help Sanchez in the final third. Representing La Roja brings out the best in Vidal, who had three goals in last year’s run to the Copa America title and has matched that total thus far in five World Cup qualifiers. The only area of concern is that Vidal tends to play with too much fire at times and often appears to play right on the edge of recklessness with some of his hard tackles.
Attackers: Alexis Sanchez, Chile ($10,440). Even if he does not find the back of the net, the one thing you are guaranteed to get from Sanchez is a 90-minute effort. The Arsenal striker is a relentless force on the pitch, whether it be pressing a defense high, tracking back to defend or carrying the ball through the final third. Sanchez’s numbers with the Gunners weren’t pretty this past season as he dealt with some injuries and inconsistent play, finishing with 16 goals and nine assists in all competitions, but if he is given the slightest of space, he will forcefully take it.
Sergio Aguero, Argentina ($10,750). As mentioned previously, choosing Aguero over Higuain and Messi is not simple. Higuain put together an incredible season with Napoli in Italy _ scoring 36 goals in 35 matches _ but over and over again, the man nicknamed “Kun” has proven one thing: When he is healthy, he scores goals. And Aguero is fully healthy entering Copa America. He nearly won the Premier League’s Golden Boot this season despite missing eight league matches and totaled 24 goals in 30 contests. Aguero also proved his worth in Argentina’s last two tournaments, helping La Albiceleste reach the 2014 World Cup finals and last year’s Copa America final. Like Sanchez, Aguero is tireless in the final third and sometimes just unstoppable with the ball at his feet.